Worn with pride
The T-shirt given to runners each year has become an important part of the Great Race story
Only a handful of people will win the various divisions and categories in next Sunday’s Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race. But all runners will receive a distinctive race T-shirt, giving them a share in the bragging rights.
“The T-shirt becomes their trophy. It becomes their prize, and they wear it with great pride,” said Mike Radley, the former Citiparks director and longtime race director. “It symbolizes a great accomplishment.”
The Great Race marks its 40th anniversary this year, and the Tshirt annually given to runners has become a rich part of the event’s story. Some runners keep them as souvenirs of personal best records or as mementos of races run with family or friends.
For others, the shirts are a link to the running and fitness communities. While the average Pittsburgher never has the opportunity to catch a pass from the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger or take the ice with the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, Mr. Radley said, race participants of all abilities can share the course with elite runners and feel like partof the team.
In 1977, the shirts went only to those who finished the race. After that, they were given to all runners. A quilt featuring all of the shirts goes on display at the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Great Race Expo each year.
Realizing the T-shirts’ value as a marketing tool, race organizers over the years have dressed local celebrities in them for posters and ads promoting the race. Among others, the ads have featured KDKA personality Brenda Waters; Scott Schubert, now the city police chief; and members of the family of the late Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri.
Mr. Caliguiri, mayor from 1977 until his death from amyloidosis in 1988, established the race as a city “fun run.” In his memory, a portion of each year’s registration proceeds is donated to the Richard S. Caliguiri Amyloidosis Fund for medical research.
This year, as many as 16,500 people are expected to take part, 11,000 in the 10K run and 5,500 in the 5K run and fitness walk.
The shirts have become a conversation piece, with some runners trying to figure out in advance what the year’s color will be, Mr. Radley said. The design — the “art of running,” he said — also is important.
Many of the shirts have featured familiar Pittsburgh images, including the city skyline and bridges. Some designs were the handiwork of Citiparks artists, while others were produced by outside designers.
This year’s shirt was designed by Burton Morris, a Pittsburgh native and Carnegie Mellon University graduate known for art depicting popular culture, such as Heinz ketchup and children’s breakfast cereals.
Mr. Morris’ design juxtaposes the steel mills of the city’s past with the gleaming office buildings dominating today’s skyline. His composition bridges the generations, much like the race itself.
Online registration remains open through Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. In-person registration is available Friday and Saturday at the expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. — Joe Smydo,